By Charles Bursey, Sr.
Several technicians have called to question me on why an electronic ignitor will function fine for a few hours, days or a week and suddenly fail causing another burner out. The customer will call in a burner out and upon arrival and a test and reset; the heating system will run without fail for many cycle tests. You explain to the customer what you did and say, you’re “All SET” remember those words? A few hours later, another no heat call from the same customer. In desperation a new electronic transformer is installed and you repeat the “All SET” message.
Could it be the older type iron core transformer that was supposed to test at 10,000 to 12,000 volts secondary current that caused the “burner out,” or what was referred to as delayed ignition? Was the IC transformer actually far under the 10,000-volt requirement? Or, perhaps the failure of a newer generation electronic transformers was found to be the true culprit?
Some readers may remember judging the strength of the IC transformer by using a trusty screw driver, or perhaps remember using a tester called the Black Hot Stick that came with a read out dial. Maybe I’m dating myself!
I will leave you a thought that has been expressed by many, and that is that in some cases a component within the unit is affected by heat causing a burner out and once it cools down the burner will function. You may want to try another brand!
Another issue that is often overlooked on a burner out call is fuel supply, especially on a buried tank. I’m sure most of you know that a dirty tank bottom can cause clogging of the oil tank filter and pump strainer. The result is a high vacuum condition that creates fuel delivery strangulation.
Recently I’ve had several company representatives call or e-mail me about an abnormal amount of burner out calls that make no sense, and that do not apply to any of the above. I also often hear about customers complaining about both soot and smell, even after the unit has been serviced by a qualified technician. Acting as Dr. Broken Burner, as I have been called among many things, I go through my usual questioning. When did the unit have its last physical? Did they check the system’s blood pressure—I mean pump pressure and draft?
Some of these calls have been so interesting that I have even gone with a company representative to visit the job site. My first step is to meet and talk to Mr. or Mrs. Homeowner to get their version of what they hear see or smell. After all, they live there.
I recently shared one of my stories with my good friend Dr. Rick, and the first words out of his mouth were, I bet there is a fresh air problem. The more I thought of what Dr. Rick said and his explanation, the more I said to myself, “I bet the unit is suffering from the lack of the proper amount of fresh air causing the system to be in ‘strangulation mode.’” Dr. Rick also gave me the correct written fresh air requirement information required to keep the heating plant operating both safely and efficiently.
One major rule of thumb, as Dr. Rick explained, is in accordance with NFPA-31 and 54 an unconfined space is any space whose volume is equal to or greater than 50 cubic feet per 1,000 Btu. I even checked my own basement and since I have added an office, my unconfined space has been reduced considerably, and now I will be installing a unit that will overcome my future issue. This will keep my heating system from strangulating.
If you want to learn more about the lack of combustion air issues, visit fieldcontrols.com.
Also visit the upcoming OESP convention in May and look for Dr. Rick.
Charlie Bursey began his long career in the oil heating industry in 1963. He has delivered coal, kerosene and oil and serviced heating and cooling equipment. He has also managed service departments, worked for a manufacturer and currently works with F.W. Webb, Warwick, R.I. He is a recipient of the Association of Oil & Energy Service Professionals’ prestigious Hugh McKee Award for making an outstanding contribution to the fuel oil industry; having had an understanding and cooperation with his/her fellowman; and having unselfishly aided the industry in education and related activities.